Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Guest Blog Post by Illinois Writer Stephanie Menendez "What is Flash Fiction?"

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Guest Blog Post by Stephanie Menendez
“What Is Flash Fiction?”

Sleeping Alone
         Kali turned over in her sleep to snuggle against her husband. She felt nothing but the pillow and jolted awake. “Oh yeah,” she said and closed her eyes. She remembered she killed him. (33 words)
--by Stephane Menendez

Flash fiction is a story told in six to 2,000 words. The term flash is simply the form’s length, and depending on who you ask, it could have different names. The above story, according to Reedsy (https://blog.reedsy.com/what-is-flash-fiction/) is referred to as a dribble, a story with a maximum of 50 words.

Though the story should have characters and a plot, the focus is on the movement. Every word has to count and that is the ultimate challenge. When writing a novel, you have pages of white space to fill, much like moving into a mansion. You have the luxury to fill every room with more than just furniture. You can display knick knacks and cherished heirlooms handed down from generations or store them in the junk room. However, if you have to pare down to live in a studio apartment, those precious knick knacks and grandma’s China you never used become stuff. You have to get rid of the stuff by putting it into storage in hopes you can use it later or by selling it. When writing flash fiction, get rid of all the stuff that blocks the flow of the story, and the end table you stubbed your toe on because it blocks your walking path.
     Flash fiction is a story. It has a hook, content and an ending. Some of the best flash fiction starts at the flashpoint (get it? Think lightening) which is the center of the conflict. Do not waste time on the introduction. The backstory is woven into the story to provide information.

In the above example (“Sleeping Alone” at the introduction), you got everything you need to know about Kali. She is a murderer who misses her husband. The story has the who, which is not as important as the reason why the character misses her husband, and finally the story tells what happened. In flash fiction, it is more important that you show rather than tell the story and avoid including too much. The reader is able to fill in the blank without the cliche’, the obvious or the boring. The ending does not have to be overly dramatic but it needs to give clarity to the previous passage and give a punch. A joke is not funny if it does not have a punchline. The ending of the story should be enigmatic. Why did Kali kill her husband? It does not matter. What matters is that the story created the question so the reader can answer.

Stephanie Menendez works as an early childhood diagnostic occupational therapist which is a fancy way of saying she assessed and evaluates children with a variety of special needs. She lives in a small city in Illinois called Fairview Heights with a population of just over 17,000 but dominated by shopping centers, plazas and a viable mall. It may not be the capital of brick and mortar box stores but it is probably a close second. Ms. Menendez has published work, Zombie Hand in Splickety Havok Magazine October 2015 edition. She is an active member in writing groups, Scribes for Praise in O’Fallon, IL and Plethora of Pens in Glen Carbon, IL.

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